Facts and Opinions

What My Anxiety Looks Like

*this post keeps deleting itself…and I have no idea why….but here it is!*

It was a whirlwind; a tornado of conflict. I was fine one minute…not the next. I was sitting in the front of my classroom trying to focus on a Sigmund Freud documentary in my Theories of Personality class. My heart was racing, my mind was wandering, and I was sweating from my palms. The room was shrinking as my breaths became more labored. I felt as if I sat in that chair any longer, I would have fell through the tile. I grabbed my bag, a cute tote bag that I collected during my trip to New York (a story that I will tell soon), dropped my phone on the floor, and fled what felt like a near death situation. I remember sobbing and wailing in the Psychology office, sniffling on the shirt of the woman who had been behind the desk. I felt pitiful. This lady probably thought that I was insane, but she was in the Psychology office, so I’m assuming that she was a little more equipped than someone from say the Biology department. I was shaking like I was struck with hypothermia. This was a side swipe; it hit me out of nowhere. What happened? What was that? That, my friends, was an anxiety attack, and the largest one that I had by far. I’ve heard people detail their episodes and they sounded like nightmares; something straight out of a horror film. Over the course of about a year and a half, my anxiety had skyrocketed. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I’m forcing myself to heal in a toxic environment, or because I’m piling too much on my plate…or a mixture of both.

Anxiety is commonly caused by external and environmental factors. In my case, an act of trauma on a college campus. An anxiety attack can spur anywhere at anytime. It’s also very common too. According to DoSomething.org, around ten percent of teenagers and forty percent of adults suffer from anxiety. I’m not good at math, so bare with me, but that’s more than three million cases. Anxiety is very much so treatable, but around two-thirds of the population There are so many different types of anxiety: GAD (generalized personality disorder, social anxiety, panic disorders, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), agoraphobia, specific phobias, and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). Because I am not a licensed professional, here are some definitions of each one according to Beyond Blue (https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety/types-of-anxiety):

Generalized Personality Disorder:

A person feels anxious on most days, worrying about lots of different things, for a period of six months or more.

Social Anxiety:

A person has an intense fear of being criticised, embarrassed or humiliated, even in everyday situations, such as speaking publicly, eating in public, being assertive at work or making small talk.

Panic Disorders:

A person has panic attacks, which are intense, overwhelming and often uncontrollable feelings of anxiety combined with a range of physical symptoms. Someone having a panic attack may experience shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness and excessive perspiration. Sometimes, people experiencing a panic attack think they are having a heart attack or are about to die. If a person has recurrent panic attacks or persistently fears having one for more than a month, they’re said to have panic disorder.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD;

This can happen after a person experiences a traumatic event (e.g. war, assault, accident, disaster). Symptoms can include difficulty relaxing, upsetting dreams or flashbacks of the event, and avoidance of anything related to the event. PTSD is diagnosed when a person has symptoms for at least a month.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD:

A person has ongoing unwanted/intrusive thoughts and fears that cause anxiety. Although the person may acknowledge these thoughts as silly, they often try to relieve their anxiety by carrying out certain behaviors or rituals. For example, a fear of germs and contamination can lead to constant washing of hands and clothes.

I will try my best to define agoraphobia and specific disorders. I use to think that agoraphobia was just being afraid of going outside, but it is a bit more intricate. Wide open spaces can trigger some type of anxiety. I would assume because you’re worried something may happen to you and you have no one to alert…but I am not a professional I wouldn’t know. Some people are startled by large crowds, or being in an enclosed space. Panic attacks and agoraphobia may go hand and hand, especially if a panic attack ensues in a public space. Specific phobias are phobias on one particular thing. For instance, my Mother is deathly afraid of snakes. Small snakes, big snakes, poisonous snakes, non-poisonous snakes…it doesn’t matter. I think it started when she was a child and saw a garden snake in her backyard. When my Grandmother was pregnant with her, a snake slithered across her foot, so I thought that was rather interesting that she developed this phobia. My friend will have a conniption fit if she sees any type of insect, even a ladybug. I remember I use to terrorize her when we were younger with cicadas that I found around my house when she came over. I didn’t think about the severity of it all, I was seven. Thankfully, cicadas don’t come back until I’m in my mid-twenties, and I’m pretty sure I have grown from that sense of immaturity. Sorry girl, I love you though. These phobias can be compartmentalized into different categories, some common ones are: situations, animals (like my Mother and my friend), natural disasters, injury, and miscellaneous like clowns or vomiting.

I think as a person, it is normal to worry, but over time, I can clearly see that it is becoming quite intrusive in my life. During the end of my freshman year and my sophomore year, my anxiety was through the roof. One thing that I was really nervous about was walking to the dining hall to get food. My dorm was literally a hop, skip, and a jump away from the dining hall, and I would not go because I was afraid of people seeing me outside. I lost a lot of weight around that time. Now, it has subsided a little bit, but there still is a surge of uncertainty when I leave my house. I can’t really pinpoint what I’m worried about, but I get those butterflies in my stomach that fly up through my throat.

To help calm these nerves down, I have tried carrying notebooks around with me (you can learn more about that with my Guide to Journaling post). I also take deep breaths, or I try to focus my thoughts on a particular scene that I made up in my head. I always like the one where I’m wandering around Paris around the Louvre. The sky is infused with purple, pink, and a hint of blue. I’m in nice clothing and I’m exploring the city, eating macaroons and living freely. See? That’s a nice image to picture in your head right? Sometimes that’s not all you can do though. Trust me, if we could dream about out our fantasies as a way to aid anxiety, people wouldn’t need to be prescribed medication. However, medication is a way to get a bit of solace. There are also natural remedies. I have heard that incense and scents like lavender help calm the body down. Some people carry around crystals (and I actually have a few which I may do a post on one day). The same friend that I terrorized with cicadas actually offered me some CBD oil that her mom had bought her. I plan on trying it out quite soon, so maybe I’ll do a review on it later.

Whatever way works. there is a way to ease anxiety. One way may not work for everyone. Anxiety can get better over time, and it can also get worse. It depends on the person. There is a way to heal of course, but it may take some time to find the right method. There is a way to manage it.

 

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Journaling, Uncategorized

Three Podcasts for the Black Girl’s Soul

The internet can be a marvelous and intriguing place. The endless opportunities to be connected to one another bring about the sharing of different experiences, stories, and information; enlightening ourselves about the world around us and the people inhabiting it. There are so many modes of sharing on the world-wide web; video, print, and audio. It gives people who crave to express creativity an outlet.
Through different avenues of media, I was able to educate myself on the perils that come with mental health neglect, as well as how many people in the African diaspora fall victim to not getting the help that they deserve. I’ve read psychology journals about black mental health and read novels about one’s journey to find themselves and better their thinking. I’ve scoured the internet and watched countless YouTube videos on young women and men sharing their experiences with mental health and professionals trying to give their expertise on how to heal deep wounds. However, I never really ventured into media that was solely audio.
I hadn’t started getting into podcasts until earlier this year. A friend of mine and I were having one of our weekly conversations about working through certain issues. Although she is around the same age as me, I see her as a mentor of some sort. Our emotions sync up like a menstrual cycle (sorry for the comparison). We will feel the exact same thing around the exact same time. Past trauma? If I’m thinking it, she’s thinking it as well. Ex-boyfriend trouble? There she is feeling the same pain. As we sat and sipped hot chocolate, she asked me how I was doing. With some people if I’m asked the same question, I’ll just lie and say, “oh yeah, I’m good.” With this girl, I am able to tell her how I’m really feeling, and nine times out of ten, she’s felt the same way at some point. I was pouring out my heart to her, talking about all the feelings that were trapped in my head waiting to exhale. She told me that I needed some peace of mind; that sometimes it was okay to sit down, breathe, and listen. She then mentioned these podcasts that she had started listening to earlier in the week that had really given her food for thought.
Therapy for Black Girls
This podcast is hosted by Joy Harden Bradford, Ph.D. She’s a licensed psychologist and breakup coach. The fact that she is a black woman in the psychological field promotes representation in this community. There are black psychologists, and there are black women in the field. The first podcast I listened to of hers was on mindfulness. All of her topics are about a wide array of topics such as “slaying” your anxiety, setting boundaries, and healing intergenerational trauma. With each episode, I took out a pen and paper wrote down what really stood out to me. In the mindfulness episode, she was talking with Shawna Murray-Browne, a LCSWC, about her journey to mindfulness and how she teaches others about it as well. As a healing justice consultant and mind-body medicine practitioner, she is the best person to ask when trying to get some peace of mind. One thing that she said really resonated with me and my situation, and I’m pretty sure it would spark a nerve in anyone who listened. It was a powerful statement, yet so simple: focus on what you can change. Whew! That hit me like a ton of bricks. That made me re-evaluate the importance of my thoughts. She was saying how stress destroys the body and destroys are health, and I am pretty sure the thoughts that I was allowing to infiltrate my brain were slowly killing me. I need to listen to that one again, because the mind is a stubborn instrument. Another one that I enjoyed was her one on setting boundaries. Implementing the popular HBO show Insecure into her lesson caught my attention, and helped me envision a better mental picture because I love the show Insecure, and sometimes it’s hard to picture me in certain scenarios. Setting boundaries is something everyone could probably improve, including myself. Put yourself first is basically the point that she was making, as well as not going back on your word. Listening to this podcast has really put some of my problems into perspective. I have more power than I think. Healing starts with yourself. It starts with how you think. The mind is so powerful…I tend to forget that.
2. Inner Hoe Uprising
I love this podcast so much! It is so real, raw and unfiltered. Four black women talk about themselves, the news that they have seen, and their love lives. Sometimes it’s just a discussion amongst themselves, and other times they interview people who are experts in whatever topic that they’re talking about. This podcast is one of the most open podcasts I’ve heard. They are not shy when it comes to expressing sexuality. They do not shame anyone for the sexual practices that they enjoy (unless they are unethical). It gives four different perspectives about love and lust. They educate others on sex and sex workers, as well as reasons why we enjoy certain things that we do. This is the only podcast that I found on my own, and I am so glad I did. They say what people think, but are too bashful to speak out loud. As black women, I feel there are certain things that the community is taboo to talk about, and sex is definitely one of them. When women talk about sex in general, it is taken as a negative. The stereotype when it comes to sex and black people is that we are over-sexual, so talking about sex in the black community may seem taboo. Talking about sex, sexuality, and sexual behavior is normal and very healthy.
3. Shades of the Soul Meditation Series
After a poem, a quote, and daily mediation, I feel at peace and at ease. Her voice is therapy within itself. In Give thanks for the blessings, she almost made me cry with the words that she cast into the atmosphere. This podcast is perfect to do early in the morning as the sun just comes up (or whenever you decide to get out of bed). Faith Hunter’s demeanor is so calm and positive. In the most recent episode that I listened to, it detailed what I really needed to tackle in my daily life: my trauma is not my life. The unfortunate circumstances that I have gone through are not my sole defining factor. There is so much more to me. In this case, I was able to let my thoughts run wild and free. At first, some of them were scary and negative, but the more I listened to the podcast and meditated on her words, those thoughts slowly melted away. They were replaced with positive affirmations.
After listening to these podcasts for a few weeks, I came back together with my friend and discussed what I learned from them. Comparing notes and pinpointing lessons that we learned throughout the shows let me know that there is strength in numbers. Knowing that there are other people out there who have gone through what I’ve gone through, made it out alive, and are helping others get over their pain make me hopeful for the future. One day, I hope to be able to do the same

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